That nagging voice of doubt
After a recent trip to Scotland for a week of stalking and fishing. I have found myself in a position I’m not happy with and I can’t come to terms with myself. Being alone up there I found myself asking questions and doubting my ammunition and abilities (I know it was a sad state of affairs but when you have time on your hands I guess this is what happens).
Up until going to Scotland a couple of years ago most of the recreational stalking I do is in woodland therefore the longest shot is possibly 100 to 150 yards. I have always had the rifle zeroed in at the traditional 1” high at 100 yards this should give me 200 yards flat and it dose.
I have used the same bullet and powder combination for years for Roe it is Hornady 243 6MM 95 GR SST and the powder is 32.3 grains Hodgdon 4895 gives me good results and high accuracy have shot them for years with no problems . So that’s the back ground this is what happened.
Arrived Monday night to light to get out really so set up a target and checked the zero first one was wild as I had cleaned the rifle second on back on 1” above the dot 3rd and 4th also I had three in a 1” group at 1”high at 100 yards (Happy with that)
So Tuesday morning before sun rise up and running on the ground saw a Roe Doe in the field she was a long way back pinged her with the range finder 357 yards, over open field I had a wall down one side popped over that crouched down and moved forward. Popped up and pinged her at 211 yards. I could not get any further forward as the plantation I was in came to a stop at the back corner of the field shooting out on to the open grass bank. Loaded up and took the shot it was high and left around the 10 o’clock mark. Did the Gralloch no problem thinking back as you do I’m so glad I moved forward as I may have missed her or worst still wounded her and she may have run.
So after breakfast dogs in the landy and off right up on the high hill to find a suitable back stop and some distance to check the zero. We have access to some moors at which you can shoot up to 1000 Yards with a good back stop of rising moorland. Set target firstly at 100 yards no problems 1” group 1” high ok looking good moved out to 200 yards still ok 3 shots 1.5” to 2 “ group at 200 on the dot moved then to 300 Yards I was giving it 9”to 10” of hold over to produce a group of 3 shots 2“ to 3” in diameter on a good 4” Kill zone target I would not go above the 300yard mark as time did not allow and I needed to get back down the hill for the evening stalk. So off I went pretty happy and no nagging voice.
It was Friday nigh before I took another shot I did see deer but they did not present themselves in a manner to get a safe shot. But every other day I rechecked the zero and had to adjust it once but I think that was my fault. So the shot was at 187 yards wind in my face right hand side shot into the engine room heart and lungs.
Again on inspection of the carcass high and right into the 10 o’clock not happy at all with the shot placement but she did drop on the spot lifted her head and fell to one side dead on the spot. Not as good as the paper target zero so back came the nagging voice had it then till Monday morning driving home now as I’m home I can’t stop thinking about it and it is giving me some grief
Sorry this is so long but I need to find some answers
The first shot was off a standing behind the wall of the top. The second was from a good steady high seat in the sitting position. The entire target zero shots were a mixture of standing off sticks sitting and prone. As I said I have not had this problem before and it has become a major niggle and has set me thinking so the point of the post
1. What range do you guys zero at?
2. Should I look at another bullet powder combo?
3. Possible new scope? (Though it has proved itself over the last 5 years)
4. Anything I’m missing here?
All the bets ash
Help before I end up in the psycho ward if I tell the FEO I’m hearing voices lol
cant help you on the usual zeroing range as I am new to stalking, but I have shot targets for many years.
If this had happened to me on the range, I would suspect I had started to "snatch" at the let off point. As the shots on deer were all going at 10 o'clock, it may be that you were flinching?
This would certainly bare out as your zero when shooting at paper (no pressure, no adrenalin) seems fine?
I also think that we can all be guilty of trying too hard and evaluating too much!
Experienced stalkers will probably be able to suggest other, more relevant, things but I would advise you to just chill out a bit and try not to think about it too much. Could simply be a confidence thing
I would agree with Ash I would put it down to yourself, especially once you have it in your head you may not think it affects you but it probably is. If the rifle has been accurate for 5 years and good when zeroing I can’t think of any other reason apart from maybe your apprehension and nerves.
I zero my stalking and foxing rifles and 100 yards 1 inch high and then move to 200 yards to check shot placement and grouping.
What was the weather like when you were zeroing and stalking? If it was sunny with a mild heat haze this can affect shot placement.
Just relax and be more confident we all have off days with the accuracy of our groupings try to put it to one side and get back out there as soon as you can!
Have to agree with the others, nothing wrong with the rifle/ammo/scope combination, it has worked for years and will carry on working. It seems as if the fault, although that is a bit of a harsh word, lies with you. If I have got this right you fired at two deer deer, killed them both with one shot and both dropped on the spot, shocking terrible carry on.
It may well be a flinch that you have developed, it may be any number of things, or most likely it will be nothing at all. Think about it, nothing changed for that outing, except the location, now if you had shot either of those beasts as you did and the other as you expected, you would not have given it a second thought, stuff happens. Now because you had two slightly off, not disastrous, shots on the trot your world is full of self doubt.
There is nothing wrong, you are seeing a problem that is not there, get back out and take a deer you are fine. How many times do you read that someone, usually an experienced someone, has written "shot was a bit high", "shot it a bit back"? It happens don't beat yourself up over it, your fine.
And for Gods sake do not answer the little voices
I always think that real and paper are very different things. You can practice all you like at the range and it just can't compare with experience of shooting a real animal. Firstly, there are far more changeable factors...the animal moves slightly, isn't at quite the angle you think, different wind strengths etc. Secondly there is you, your physical state and your emotions/doubts. Your heart rate will have increased, your respiration rate will have increased or become ragged, there will be adrenaline in your system, you may even be trembling slightly. You may have cold fingers, a crick in your back from sitting in an unusual position - the list is endless.
I'd stick with your rifle/load if you've proved on the range it's OK - don't forget, dead is dead and neither of your beasts got away.
IMHO it could be two things. Shooting paper and shooting live are two different things
The most likely problem however is that you are not following through long enough on your live target compared to your paper target. This may be just a fraction of a second. Since you sound very competent in your post the little voice in your head is fouling the shot for you.
Don't think about missing or inconsistency or you will tense up and foul the shot. Relax relax relax.
Alternatively a minute amount of flinch when shooting live may have crept in, try a dry firing exercise on a common live target like a rabbit/hare etc.
DO NOT CHANGE YOUR CLEANING REGIME, SCOPE OR AMMO. THIS IS A BRAIN PROBLEM ONLY
One of the most common problems that causes a proven set-up to go wild is a build up of copper. Have you used a good solvent recently such as Forest bore foam or Hoppes N0.9?
Are all your screws tight? (On your scope/rifle-not in yer head! )
Is your free-floating barrel touching anything?
Don't change anything until you rule out all of these things, and then only change one thing at a time. Get a decent shooting support/benchrest whilst you check zero - this should eliminate you from the equation. Or get someone that you know is a good shot to try it out maybe just to give you confidence in the equipment if nothing else.
Most of all - chill out and remember the 'Marksmanship principles' when you shoot. It does us all good to go back to basics from time-to-time.
I have had exactly the same problem as you and it is often due to a change in environment, being forced to change technique etc. Range finders don't help either.
I personally don't like using a bipod, instead preferring to use a rolled up gunslip or tuft etc if neds be. I know I can shoot well like that. On a couple of occassions I have been requested by the stalker on the hill to use a bipod - I know that it doesn't change the zero on my rifle - I have checked on more than one occasion, but it completely ruins my rythm and on more than one occasion I have completely missed or had to shoot again. I have shot enough foxes (small target) without a bipod to know that if I don't think about it I can hit cleanly every time.
With range finders, I find they just add pressure. A deer either looks close enough or it doesn't - get used to the correct sight picture in your scope. If it looks close enough, take the shot, if it doesn't then get closer, or wait for the animal to move closer. Knowing that it is exactly 187 yds I don't think really helps - or certainly it doesn't help me.
Sighting in distance - suggest 1 to 1.5inch at 100yds. I have the ballistic table of RWS243 100gn in front of me - MV 3070 fps.
50yds + 0.2 inch
150 +1.6 yds
200 +0.5 yds
250 -1.9 inch
300 - 5.8 inch
Note that the bullet continues to climb to 150 ish yards. But the real message is your sighting is probably correct and providing you are not shooting to extreme distances cross hair tight in behind the shoulder 1/3 of the way up = dead animal. If it is looking a bit far - cross hair 1/2 way up. Try and imagine though where the heart is and shoot for that.
Examining the carcass for shot placement is useful, but I have found that rarely is an animal exactly broadside when you take the shot, and even a small angle will result in the bullet appearing to enter slightly to one side. Animals also move and will move slightly between squeezing the trigger and bullet impact.
Much better is to look at the heart and lungs - has the bullet gone through them. If so nothing wrong with your shooting.
Paper punching - fine for checking the sights but for real life practice get yourself a box of clay pigeons at put then out at various random ranges. Provided you can break them with every shot you should have the confidence to take a shot.
To be perfectly honest its a psychologist you want to see there's nothing wrong with your shooting ,but your way out on the concept of deer stalking at the distances your shooting your deer at , is way out I stalk and shoot 99% of the deer at ranges of no more than 80, 100 meters with the odd shot out to and over 150 mtrs very odd .
Your looking into this far to much, powders and bullet heads, wind age are great on paper, what about the human factor on a live heart beating target, there's a difference it can move give its self a shake ,at the ranges your out anything can happen by the time you brain registers to pull the trigger and the bullet hitting the point of aim .
Stop being over critical of your shooting, enjoy what your doing get into stalking right in close thats where, the enjoyment is for me and countless others .
Just reread your post - shooting downwards from a high seat will tend to make the bullet go a bit high.
Likewise if you are shooting from below, bullet tends to go high.
Key distance is the horizontal distance if you are shoting up or down hill - thats what will affect the bullet drop. Bt as said in my last post - for most practicle purposes with flat shooting rifle you don't need to worry too much about this.
Wind though can easily push a bullet off a few inches at 150 yds - if it is windy get yourself in closer.